Your immune system is one of the most important components of your body. It protects you against harmful viruses and bacteria and fights to keep you healthy and safe at all times. Put simply, the role of our immune system is to maintain a delicate balance between reaction and tolerance. On one hand, we need our immune system to fight harmful pathogens, while on the other, allow the good bacteria in our intestines to do their job in helping our body function properly. It does amazing things to help you stay healthy, but there are also additional interesting facts about the immune system that you probably didn’t know before. In this blog, read in-depth about the immune system, interesting facts and all!
Why is the immune system the most important?
The immune system is a complex network of biological processes that protects an organism from diseases. Nearly all organisms, including bacteria, plants, animals, and humans, have some sort of immune system. The main role of the immune system is to detect and respond to a wide variety of pathogens, from germs and viruses to parasitic worms, as well as cancer cells and even objects such as wood splinters, distinguishing them all from an organism's own healthy tissue.
What are the 3 types of immune systems?
Humans have three types of immunity — innate, adaptive, and passive:
Everyone is born with innate immunity, a type of general protection. It’s our body’s first line of defense. It consists of protection offered by the skin and mucous membranes and protection offered by the immune system’s cells and proteins.
The skin acts as a barrier to block germs from entering the body. If germs do get past the skin and mucous membranes, then the innate immune system activates special immune system cells and proteins.
Innate immunity is also the fastest when it comes to a reaction to germs.
Adaptive immunity is the second line of defense. This immune system activates if innate immunity didn’t manage to eliminate the germs. It develops throughout our lives by being exposed to diseases or when we're immunized against them through vaccines.
Adaptive immunity, also known as active immunity, is more effective but also slower. It needs time to recognize and identify the threat before it starts fighting it.
The adaptive immune system has “memory”, which is why getting infected with the same disease for the second time is either easier to bear or sometimes not even possible (you become immune).
While the adaptive immune system lasts a lifetime, passive immunity is short-lived. Usually just a few weeks or months.
It is also a type of immunity you get from another source, rather than creating it yourself. For example, babies “inherit” antibodies from their mother's breast milk giving the baby temporary immunity to diseases the mother has been exposed to.
Signs of a good immune system
To put it plainly, if you feel good and you get over flus and colds quickly and easily - your immune system is working just fine.
You may think that if you have a good immune system, you don’t get sick. Ever. This is actually not entirely true. The real sign of your immune system working properly is that, when you do get sick, you get over it swiftly. In some cases, not getting sick may even be a sign of a suppressed immune system. It means your body is not detecting the pathogen or just letting bacteria or viruses in without fighting them off.
Signs of a weak immune system
Apart from what we just previously mentioned, never getting sick could be a sign of a suppressed immune system. But there are other, more obvious signs as well.
If you get sick often, your immunity might be compromised.
If your colds last longer than a week, your immune system might be compromised.
As a person with a weakened immune system, you’re more susceptible to infections such as pneumonia or bronchitis, amongst others.
What destroys your immune system?
When your immune system doesn't work the way it should, that is called an immune system disorder.
This happens when:
- Someone is born with a weak immune system, also called primary immune deficiency. People with it often have more severe infections that last longer and happen more frequently.
- Someone gets a disease that weakens their immune system. This is called acquired immune deficiency. Acquired immune deficiency syndrome, better known as AIDS, happens when HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) infects, targets, and destroys immune system cells whose job it is to fight off infections.
- Someone has an immune system that is so active that it turns against them. This is called an autoimmune disease. In autoimmune diseases, the body attacks normal, healthy tissues. The cause of autoimmune diseases is not yet known.
Things you can do to improve your immune system
Maintain a healthy diet
We know that most (if not all) of these are common sense but it has to be said.
Try to eat lots of veggies, healthy fats, and protein. Reduce your sugar intake, as well as heavily processed foods.
No one expects you to be perfect all of the time. But try to eat as best as you can, whenever you can.
Move your body. It’s actually not that complicated. You really don’t have to go on long runs, or even go to the gym. If you’re new to exercise and most of your day is sedentary, then just taking a long walk everyday will benefit both you and your immune system greatly.
Drink lots of water
A person can survive weeks without food, but most won’t be able to survive longer than 3 or 4 days without water. Water is essential to our bodies, and dehydration can be really dangerous. Even now! While you’re reading this - are you drinking enough water? Stand up, please, pour yourself a glass of water and drink it to benefit yourself. (you’re welcome.)
Get plenty of sleep
Adults should get between 7 to 9 hours of sleep per day. It may not always be possible, but strive to have a routine that will allow you to get enough sleep throughout the week.
We know. Easier said than done. But being under stress stresses your immune system, as well. An immune system under stress is a weakened immune system. Meaning, the odds of you getting sick more often and for longer stretches of time increases.
Juggling all the things we just mentioned even without work, school, or family is hard enough. Of course no one can achieve all of these ALL THE TIME. That is why we suggest you have a bit of help on the side.
If you’re lacking diverse nutrition, think about supplementing with our B12 vitamin.
If you can't seem to fall asleep or rest well during the night, we have an excellent nighttime formula designed to aid in better quality sleep.
If you need something to boost your overall immune system, you can go for our elderberry syrup or morning multivitamin.
Think about what it is your body needs and help it in the quickest way possible.
What food & drinks improves immunity?
Choose foods that will support your immune system. Pick those with high vitamin C levels, antioxidants, and fiber…
Here is a list of some foods that can help your immune system:
- Citrus fruits
- Red bell pepper
While water is an absolute imperative, there are other refreshing and nutritious drinks you can include in your daily rituals.
- Almond milk
- Lemonade (or lemonade with honey)
- Green tea
- Ginger tea
- Smoothies with plenty of green veggies and berry fruits
- Freshly squeezed orange juice (or any squeezed mix of citrus fruits you like)
What are some interesting facts about the immune system?
Now that we’ve covered the importance of our immunity and you now have some general knowledge about the immune system, read some facts that you might find surprising and interesting!
Your immunity is influenced by your childhood diet
It has been scientifically proven that when we are exposed to different foods throughout our childhood, our body develops a tolerance for them. That’s why it's a good idea for children to eat foods that are commonly known to cause allergies such as peanuts, eggs, fish, and strawberries, to prevent the development of allergies to them later in life.
Children’s food tolerance is directly related to their digestive system so feeding them allergens is one way to help strengthen their immune system.
The digestive system is closely related to the immune system
About 70% of the cells that make up your immune system are found in the lining of your digestive tract. This is because our body gets rid of all toxins that are harmful to the body through the digestive tract. Inevitably, we should take good care of our digestive system if we want to have strong immunity.
The immune system is also influenced by your mood
Your mood can have a significant impact on your immunity. Several studies have shown that people who described themselves as happy or calm were less likely to catch a cold. By adopting a positive attitude, you’ll also be able to combat the effects of stress. Other research has shown links between positive thinking or optimism and improvements to the immune system.
Women are more prone to develop autoimmune diseases
In autoimmune diseases, the immune system develops antibodies that attack the body's healthy tissues. The majority of autoimmune diseases affect a lot more women than men on such a large scale that there have been many theories and assumptions about why this is so. One of those theories is that the hormone, estrogen, may play a role in predisposing women to autoimmune diseases.
Lack of sleep might lead to a poor immune system
When you deprive yourself of sleep, you are, in fact, weakening your immune system. The immune system develops a battle plan for each specific invader. (Yes, our bodies are that amazing!) During sleep, your body releases cytokines, which are a type of protein that improves communication among cells and directs the fighting cells towards the infected ones. Basically what’s happening is that these proteins are helping the immune system develop an effective fighting plan and take action. Both activities take place more effectively when we get enough quality sleep.
The immune system must be constantly supported
You probably don't think about the importance of the immune system much until you end up dealing with a nasty virus that you can't get rid of. However, you should know that this component of your body works continuously every day, whether you’re sick or not, and keeps you away from all kinds of conditions. Just as the immune system helps us, so must we support it.
As we mentioned previously, you can pick and choose some of Elderberry Hill’s supplements that are formulated to be quickly absorbed and easily consumed. They are delicious and contain no added sugar. Decide which one is right for you.
What do you do to support your immune system?